A talented Galway soccer player has been chosen as the Premier League 2’s – the English top flight’s U23 equivalent– Player of the Year.
And in a further boost to the career of Aaron Connolly, he has been included in the Ireland U21 squad for the upcoming Toulon Tournament.
Connolly, who has been in fine form at club level this season, missed the most recent European Championship qualifier with Luxembourg through injury.
The 19-year-old Brighton forward enjoyed a terrific first half to the campaign — scoring 11 goals and creating two assists in 15 league appearances.
On the final day of the January transfer window, the former Mervue United player went on loan to Luton Town for the remainder of the season, but a hamstring injury restricted him to just two appearances for the League One champions.
However, his exploits for the Seagulls have earned him this individual award as the reserve division’s best player.
Connolly saw off competition from eight other players on the shortlist, including fellow Irish teenagers Adam Idah of Norwich City and Southampton midfielder Will Smallbone.
“It’s a good personal achievement,” said the Ireland under-age international. “If someone told me at the start of the season, I would have laughed at it. It’s just been an unbelievable season — personally and for the team.
“I think I have to see myself pushing on to the first team here. I think that’s everyone’s ambition if you’re in the academy here.
“I want to play for the first team at Brighton. If not that, hopefully I can play for a first team somewhere else permanently. But right now my ambition is to play for this first team.
“Hopefully I can do that in the next few years,” added Connolly.
He has also impressed on the international front since moving to the Premier League just over two years ago.
The 18-year-old has lined out for both the Ireland U17s and U19s, with Connolly scoring seven goals in six games during qualifying for the Uefa European U17 Championships two years ago.